South Korea said on Wednesday that joint missile drills between its military and the United States are being held in reaction to North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan. Since 2017, this has been one of the allies’ most incisive responses to North Korean weapon testing.
For the first time in five years, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, leading Japan to issue evacuation orders for some of its residents.
In response to North Korea’s increasing missile testing, South Korea and the United States fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that during the drill, the South Korean and American forces successfully launched a total of four Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) into the East Sea, sometimes referred to as the Sea of Japan, “to precisely hit a virtual target.”
The drills are being held, according to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, to “ensure that we have the military capabilities and the readiness to respond to provocations by the North.”
He continued by stating that the United States is “ready to sit down with Kim Jong-un without preconditions” and that it wants to “see the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
John Kirby also pointed out that Kim Jong-un isn’t making any attempts to defuse the situation. Instead, he’s moving in the opposite direction by “continuing to conduct these missile tests.”
United States, South Korea, and Japan
The US, South Korea, and Japan are strategic allies in the Indo-Pacific region as both South Korea and Japan depend on the United States for their defense needs.
The most recent launch by North Korea was denounced by US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “in the strongest terms.”
On South Korea’s Army Day on Saturday, October 1, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles, which fell in the Sea of Japan well outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). North Korea has previously tested missiles, and some of the debris has landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
This makes Japan especially vulnerable to North Korean missile tests. This is especially true after it had to issue evacuation orders on Tuesday.
Thus, on Tuesday, immediately following North Korea’s test-firing over Japan, fighter jets from the United States and Japan conducted joint exercises over the Sea of Japan.
U.S. Marine Corps fighter jets participated in the exercise alongside fighter jets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), according to a statement from the Hawaii-based U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Further adding that the United States’ “commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”
South Korea’s reaction to missile tests
The launch was referred to as a “provocation” by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who also promised a “severe response” to continued North Korean hostilities.
The USS Ronald Reagan, an American aircraft carrier, made its first stop in South Korea last month for the first time in years, in a move, the South Korean military deemed “very rare” and intended to demonstrate the partners’ willingness to counter any threats from North Korea. With its attack group of other warships, it will reenter the waters between Korea and Japan.
The failed launch of the South Korean Hyunmoo-2C missile
In a missile launch separate from the joint South Korean and United States drill, the South Korean military unsuccessfully tried to launch its latest missile—the Hyunmoo-2C missile.
It failed shortly after launch and crashed during the drill without any casualties.
Although it sparked fear in the neighboring civilian areas, where people posted footage of smoke and flames emerging from the military camp.
Even though malfunctioning military equipment is common, it eclipses South Korea’s efforts to show its military might in the face of North Korea’s expanding capabilities.
After North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, the United States requested that the U.N. Security Council convene a meeting with the country. However, veto-powers China and Russia objected to the 15-member council’s holding a public discussion.
Even though the Security Council has for years prohibited North Korea from conducting nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, it nonetheless conducts the tests despite harsh sanctions and international criticism.
Given that China and Russia continue to support North Korea, dissuading it from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles may not be an easy task. As a result, an international agreement must be established with North Korea’s full involvement before any significant results can be anticipated.